I am currently watching the US Women’s hockey team play OAR in the Olympics right now.
I am a big fan of hockey. I played growing up and it is one of the sports that I understand the most.
This year with no NHL players in the tournament for the men, the women really have my interest. Probably because the women’s team is always better and I know more players than the men’s.
The one thing that I am noticing is that these women are skating circles around the Russians. They are way faster and more skilled giving them a 5 goal lead as I am typing this.
A few years back I was working with about 90% hockey players. I used to write a lot about the needs of those athletes. I was also working with them year round.
Hockey has currently been replaced by baseball but it got me thinking about needs for all sports.
One of the things that holds a lot of hockey players back is a lack of hip extension strength. This is the same for baseball. Also, golf. Definitely anyone who needs to run for their sport.
As important as this strength is, a lot of young athletes do not have it. They lack the strength and patterning to properly extend their hips.
When athletes run they are supposed to fully extend their back leg. propelling them forward. Jogging does not require such motion.
Without this motion, speed will always be hard to improve.
Skating has the same rules. The only thing that changes is the direction of the push.
The skating stride is more of a diagonal push instead of straight back. This puts more emphasis on the glutes since it also involves hip abduction.
Ever hear of someone throwing off of their back foot? This means that they did not successfully transfer their weight to the front foot. We get there by extending the back hip.
This is relevant for baseball and football throwers except baseball requires a higher degree of extension.
Throwers that lack the ability to push off of their back leg are going to struggle with velocity and consistency.
Swinging in both baseball and golf need the hips to extend. After the hips rotate they need to extend all the way to allow for good power transfer. This is where power generation comes from.
Hip extension is one of the most powerful movements. This is why everyone gets all hot and bothered about jumping, olympic lifts, and triple extension. I don’t think there is a need to debate these things because hip extension matters.
Improving Hip Extension
The first place to go when looking to improve hip extension is the weight room. Resistance training is going to get us the strength we need to extend the hips.
Deadlifts, glute bridges, lunges, and step ups are going to be some of the best hip extension exercises. We need to not only have the strength to extend but also the motor control to do it. There are athletes that will try to deadlift without actually extending their hips.
The exercises are great, but they do need to be monitored to make sure they are doing their job.
I also think bounding is a great way to work on hip extension. A lot of young athletes are really bad at bounding. This indicates that they have a lot of speed to gain. This can take some real work so be patient with these movements.
Stride length is the third thing I look for when talking hip extension. The bounding is really good for learning the technique of pushing but it needs to be reinforced.
Setting up some hurdles with distance in between them forces hip extension. You cannot sprint through the hurdles with extension and perform the drill correctly.